US & Canada

Louisiana man held for two 'racially motivated' murders

Gleason Image copyright Reuters

A suspect has been arrested in the US state of Louisiana for the murders of two black men, which authorities said were "racially motivated".

Baton Rouge police have also charged Kenneth Gleason with attempted murder after shots were fired at an African-American family's home.

Investigators say they discovered the 23-year-old's DNA on pistol shell-casings found at the crime scenes.

A lawyer for Mr Gleason, who is white, said his client denies the charges.

During a search of the suspect's home over the weekend, authorities discovered a speech by Adolf Hitler, as well as cannabis and human growth hormone, US media report.

Bruce Cofield, 59, and Donald Smart, 49, were both shot in separate incidents while walking on the streets of the Louisiana state capital last week.

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Mr Cofield was homeless, and Mr Smart had been walking to his job as a dishwasher at a cafe popular with Louisiana State University students.

Authorities believe the two victims were first shot from a car before the attacker walked over and continued firing at them as they lay on the ground.

The attacks happened two days apart, and police say they believe neither man had any previous interaction with Mr Gleason.

Police also believe Mr Gleason may have opened fire on the home of a black family in his neighbourhood, where he lives with his parents. Nobody was injured in that attack.

Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam said on Tuesday: "I feel confident this killer probably would have killed again, and could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this community together."

Mr Gleason had just posted bail for unrelated theft charges when he was arrested for the killings.

He has been booked on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal damage to property and illegal use of weapon, according to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said his office will seek the death penalty.

Christopher Alexander, a lawyer for Mr Gleason, said his client "vehemently denies guilt, and we look forward to complete vindication".

It is not the first time the Louisiana state capital has been rocked by racially charged shootings.

In July 2016, a black gunman gunned down six police officers in the city, killing three, days after the fatal police shooting of an African-American man, Alton Sterling.

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